Swimmers Hospitalized with Chloramine Poisoning at Central Zone 14&U Champs in Kansas

by Riley Overend 120

August 06th, 2023 Club, News

2023 Central Zone 14&U Championships

  • Aug. 2-6, 2023
  • Shawnee Mission Aquatic Center
    • Lenexa, KS
  • LCM (50 meters)
  • Results on MeetMobile: “2023 Central Zone 14&U Championships

A chaotic scene apparently unfolded at the 2023 Central Zone 14&U Championships this past weekend in Kansas.

Sources tell SwimSwam that poor air quality and unhealthy chemical readings at the Shawnee Mission Aquatic Center forced ambulances to be called to the site, ultimately sending several swimmers to the hospital with chloramine poisoning. Despite objections from Central Zone head coaches, the meet persisted until Sunday after Friday’s session was cut short due to air quality concerns.

Around 700 swimmers from 10 different states traveled to Lenexa for the competition. The entire team of Iowa ended up pulling out of the meet due to dangerous conditions.

“Meet directors are continuing the meet without discussions with coaches and general chairs are telling Zone coaches they are contractually obliged to coach while getting sicker by the session,” Iowa Flyers head coach Jackson Leonard told SwimSwam on Saturday. “News crews are on site, yet everyone seems content to sweep this under the rug. Congrats to the Zones coaches with the hutzpah to pull their kids from the meet or to stand up to the meet directors and idiotic pool operators.

“We have coaches who won’t ever volunteer for Zone team staffs ever again,” Leonard added. “We have athletes and parents from multiple LSCs who won’t attend Zone meets again. Lawsuits will be filed. This is a bad look for youth sports.”

“Every time I go in there, my lungs just start like closing up,” said Marin Hitzeman, a 12-year-old swimmer from Minnesota.

“The air quality there is making kids pass out. Get sick, cough, want to go home,” said another 12-year-old swimmer, Phoebe Little from Oklahoma. “I never in my entire life have experienced anything like this. This is crazy.”

One parent from South Dakota described the feeling of being inside the natatorium as “you start feeling your eyes burning, your nose starts running… it’s just super hot and stuffy and it just kind of takes over your whole body.”

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Who’s in charge here?
8 months ago

I still cannot wrap my head around the many layers of atrocities at this zone meet. 25+ years in competitive swimming through the nation and age groups and I’ve never needed to research ‘Chloramine poisoning’ or heard of kids getting transported for medical care due to pool conditions until this meet. It’s sickening that such a horrific scene seems to be getting swept under the rug without so much as an emergency meeting.
Was ANYONE on the LSC board even on deck- like at all? Or did they shout blind ‘business as usual’ orders without knowing first hand accounts and facts?
Truly hoping I’m simply missing updates on an investigation. LSC Please post any updated policies/procedures or possibly… Read more »

Who’s in charge here?
Reply to  Who’s in charge here?
7 months ago

Dumbfounded at the ineptitude of Bobby Kelly hosting todays LSC meeting. I think I found my answer to who dropped the preverbal batton and zones and who knows what else. Him Laughing about how he “cut and pasted” from other LSC’s crisis management roles had my skin crawling. Denial of conversations and claiming over and over “miscommunication” is a joke to veil your lack of backbone, Bobby.
Iowa swimming deserves leadership with integrity not someone who dodges it.
Also, that attorney that you casually mentioned was in the meeting…will you be paying him to aid your inadequacy? Or will that cost be coming out of Iowa Swimming budget?
Purely Disgusted.

Big Jim
8 months ago

These pool air issues are unacceptable. It comes down to unqualified cpo/managers not knowing wtf they are doing. All pool air handlers comes with a standard a operations book. Those “suggestions” are recommend for budget operational cost, not public health. You can instal the same system in Maine and Utah and both are going to run different during the seasons no matter what the manual says.

For events those systems should be adjusted 3-7 days before the event for the room to aclimate to settings. Your humidity should be 45-47% at its highest. The book states 55% for minimal evaporation rates. The air should be set to accommodate for all the people that are estimated to be in the… Read more »

MO Mom
Reply to  Big Jim
8 months ago

This is absolutely a problem with the pool manager. He has routinely told concerned parents that everything is fine and that all readings are within range, but you hit the nail on the head when you say all the excuses are BS. Swimmers and spectators are still coughing so something else has to be able to be done.

Daniel Gaeckle
8 months ago

Source capture exhaust is an absolute must for any natatorium design. As long as a disinfectant is being used to treat the water and organics are being introduced to said water, chloramines will be produced. Capture them off the source and get them out of the facility!
Solution by dilution is a great way to introduce the corrosive air coming off the pool to the internals of your dehumidification unit, shaving off years from the life span of your DHU, which will on average, cost 6 figures to replace.
UV, ozone, enzymes, hygiene all will help with chloramine mitigation. Mitigation, not elimination. The final step is source capture exhaust.

Swim Mom
8 months ago

For those interested, the pool administrators still don’t get it. Basically stating everything is fine and they will just keep an eye on the number of swimmers. I can tell you we have been at smaller meets at this facility with same issue.

Johnson County investigating conditions at aquatic center (fox4kc.com)

Swim Mom
Reply to  Swim Mom
8 months ago

Post-event survey:

JCDHE has developed a survey for all participants and spectators who attended the event. This will help JCDHE better understand the nature and extent of illnesses experienced and work with partners to prevent it from happening again. The survey will ask about any symptoms, time frames and actions prior to and during the swim meet. Participation is completely voluntary and responses will be kept confidential. JCDHE will prepare a report on the investigation.

To complete the survey, please visit https://redcap.jocogov.org/surveys/?s=C3K4JR7CDFTDTKKL

8 months ago

Maybe all lsc board members must be required to attend all sessions of these events and stay during the whole duration with no breaks from the pool area. That way their decisions can affect themselves also. And they can make an informed decision on the conditions

doggy paddle
8 months ago

Sounds like the Maryland Swimming LSC Short Course meet this past spring at St. Mary’s College but to a lesser degree of illnesses. I only know for sure that one swimmer had to go to the ER, but that’s one too many. The rest of the swimmers, officials, volunteers, and coaches suffered from breathing issues, burning eyes, and coughing. NOTHING was done. Post-meet a MD Swim exec. stated “A lot of swimmers posted personal bests, so it couldn’t have been that bad.”

Last edited 8 months ago by doggy paddle
8 months ago

This pool, while relatively new, has always had problems with the air quality. My daughter has always hated swimming at this pool due to the terrible air quality and the subsequent chlorine cough, burning eyes, etc. that are inevitable when swimming a meet in this pool. A large meet compounded with younger swimmers and poorly managed chemicals is a perfect recipe for a terrible situation like this. Hopefully SOMEONE finally takes accountability for managing the Shawnee facility, invests in better air handling, and hires someone who understands pool chemicals. There are not enough decent pools for large meets in the Midwest. It would be a loss to USA swimming if this facility is not able to be used again.

Don’t Pee In the Pool
8 months ago

I know it’a somewhat taboo to discuss, but we need to be teaching our young swimmers better pool use protocol. When organic material (skin, urine, fecal matter, hair, etc) combines with free chlorine in pool water it creates di- and tri-chloramines. These chloramines off-gas into a natatorium environment and create the “chlorine” smell that is often mistaken for actual chlorine.

If you tell kids that they’re literally BREATHING their own pee if they go in the pool, I think that will help deter some of this. Coaches often don’t help as they don’t like to see athletes get out and break up a workout to use the restroom.

Chloramines can be destroyed by a UV system within the… Read more »

Thomas Huggins
Reply to  Don’t Pee In the Pool
8 months ago

One of my coaches blames tech suits for poor water quality. It is easier to pee in the pool than to take off a tech suit and put it back on. Personally I blame low bid contracting and poor air handling systems.The pool I coach at disconnected the pool from the rest of the rec center’s air handling. Their reasoning was that the chlorine wore down the systems too quickly.

Reply to  Don’t Pee In the Pool
8 months ago

I’m sure there are multiple issues, but peeing in the pool has NEVER been ok with me. Usually when I say something about it, some joker has to say ‘yeah, but that’s what chlorine is for’. (leading to article above.). The explanation ‘tech suit is too hard to remove and suit up again’ does sound somewhat legitimate. But only at meets; not at practice. However, (this may sound gross, but) a swimmer can always pee in the shower. If this must be their choice, please be sure to leave the shower running long enough to flush all the fluids down the drain. I think pee in the shower is better than pee in the pool. Shower water does all go… Read more »

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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